SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea’s new foreign minister is a former defense commander with little diplomatic experience, spotlighting leader Kim Jong Un’s reliance on party and military loyalists at a sensitive time amid stalled U.S. talks, analysts in Seoul said on Monday.
Last week, North Korea told countries with embassies in Pyongyang that Ri Son Gwon, a senior military officer and official of the ruling Workers’ Party, had been appointed foreign minister, a diplomatic source in Seoul told Reuters.
Ri - Yong - Ho - Career - Diplomat
He replaces Ri Yong Ho, a career diplomat with years of experience negotiating with Washington, but who often took a backseat to other officials during the last two years of diplomacy.
Seoul-based NK News first reported the change on Saturday, citing unnamed sources in Pyongyang.
Analysts - Appointment - Denuclearisation - Talks - United
Analysts said it was too soon to tell exactly what impact the appointment may have for the stalled denuclearisation talks with the United States, but said Ri Son Gwon had often played a confrontational role in negotiations with South Korea.
Unlike his predecessor, Ri Son Gwon does not have any experience in dealing with nuclear issues or U.S. officials, though he has led high-level talks between the neighbors.
Chairman - Committee - Peaceful - Reunification - Country
Previously chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC), which handles relations with South Korea, Ri is the latest military official to be promoted to the party leadership.
“There has been a demonstrative crossover dynamic in which senior military officials migrate into the party leadership,” said Michael Madden, a North Korea leadership expert at the Stimson Centre, a U.S. think tank.
Leader - Number - Missile - Launches - Year
As the young North Korean leader oversaw a number of short-range ballistic missile launches in the past year, the number of military and arms industry officials appearing in public with Kim Jong Un has increased sharply.
Ri had largely stayed out of the public eye since talks with South Korea stalled last...
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